Most cats are not good travelers. They like having their familiar established territory and couldn't care less about seeing the wonders of the Great Beyond. You're not very likely to ever come across a cat sticking its head out the window with its ears flapping in the wind...
But sometimes long-distance traveling with cats is inevitable. If a-20-minute car journey to the vet is a loud vocal nightmare, the prospect of spending long hours on the road with cats in the car can be absolutely terrifying. Don't lose hope though. People do take their cats on long car trips and you can too. Here's a collection of thirty-six tips, provided by TCS (TheCatSite.com) members over the years, that will help make road tripping with cats safer and less stressful.
General Tips For Road Tripping with Cats1. Stay calm. Cats pick up on our stress, so if you raise your voice, or otherwise display signs of distress, this could make things harder on the cat.
2. Many cats take up to an hour to relax, so just because your cat tends to howl on 20-minute long trips to the vet, doesn't necessarily mean she'll be like that for 20 hours on a road trip.
3. Some cats do better on a long trip if they are familiarized with the traveling routine and have been desensitized to it long in advance. This usually works better with kittens or very young cats. For older cats, the training may be nothing but added stress.
Road Trips With Cats - Safety Issues4. Have your cats in a large carrier or dog crate during the entire duration of the drive. Having a cat loose in the car is dangerous to both cats and humans. Road safety first! The driver should not have to deal with a cat squirming between the pedals or blocking the view of the windshield.
5. Cats should always wear a harness while in the car. Whenever they are removed from their crate or carrier, a leash needs to be securely clipped onto the harness. Train your cats to wear a harness in advance.
6. Never ever let a cat out of the crate/carrier while any car doors or windows are open, unless they are securely harnessed and leashed.
7. Never let your cat out of the car during stops - unless they are well trained to walk on a harness and leash and are properly secured that way.
8. Have your cats properly ID'd. Their harness should have a name tag with your current mobile phone number on it. Microchipping your cat is also a good idea.
9. Do not medicate your cats for the trip without consulting with your vet first. Many OTC calming agents can be dangerous for cats.
10. If you do medicate (following vet advice), make sure you try the medication at home first, to test for any reactions and side effects.
11. Make sure the cats are in a well-ventilated area of the car, yet are not exposed to wind or to extreme temperatures.
12. Never leave your cats unattended in the car, especially not on hot or cold days.
The Cat's Environment13. Give your cats room to stretch and move around. Opt for very large carriers, and preferably dog crates.
14. If possible, cage a section of your vehicle and make that into the kitty playpen. Just make absolutely sure no doors or windows in that area can be opened by mistake.
15. If you use large dog crates, you can place more than one cat in each crate, provided the cats get along well with each other.
16. Make the most of the vertical dimension of the crate by hanging a cat shelf inside it.
17. Drape a sheet over the cage or crate, leaving one side open. This will make the cats feel more secure, as well as protect them from direct sunlight coming through the car windows.
18. Line the crate with pee pads, in case you have any accidents. Carry extras with you.
19. Place familiar blankets and cushions in the crate.
20. Place a worn tee shirt of yours in the crate for the cats to have your scent around them.
21. Consider using Feliway - spray the crates or use a diffuser in the car.
22. Take a few cat toys and rotate along the way. This is especially effective with kittens. Don't be offended if your cat avoids playing.
Road Tripping With CatS: Food, Drink and Litterboxes23. Many cats do not eat, drink or poop while on the road. Don't be alarmed by this, and just patiently wait for your final stop at the hotel.
24. Keep a small disposable litter pan in the crate. You can use aluminum baking pans and bring along a supply that will last for the duration of the trip.
25. Have wipes and strong plastic bags handy at all times, to handle litter box accidents.
26. If you keep a water bowl in the crate, make sure it's deep and put very little water in it. You want to avoid spillage as the car turns and sways.
27. Consider training your cats to use rabbit water bottles prior to the trip. You can do that by using chicken broth (no onions or garlic in it!) and some water in the bottle, or rubbing their favorite moist cat food near the tip of the bottle. If they learn how to drink from that, it's a great way to make water available without risking wetting the bottom of the crate.
28. If you prefer, you can limit water and food and provide them only during breaks, once every 4-5 hours.
29. If your cat tends to get car sick, it's best to avoid feeding 2-3 hours prior to traveling. You can feed them at night at the hotel. Many cats don't eat and drink during car trips anyway.
30. Only provide food your cats are familiar with and tolerate well. This almost goes without saying, but don't try new treats or pamper them with expensive foods that they'd never tried before.
More Road advice31. If your trip is more than a day long, plan ahead for accommodation. Many motels and hotels are pet-friendly, though some ask for extra fees. Most Super 8's and all Motel 6's are pet-friendly. Call in advance to make sure they have room for you and your kitties.
32. Have vet paperwork handy for crossing state lines or borders between countries. Papers are rarely needed for crossing state borders, but at the very least, have proof of your cat being current on her rabies shots.
33. Don't let the meowing get to you. Most cats meow like crazy when they get on the road. Most also settle down after an hour at the most and go to sleep. You need to focus on safe driving and ignore the cries.
34. Keep your driving relaxed. Don't overtake unless absolutely necessary and take it easy when pulling out. Remember that cats are sensitive to acceleration, deceleration and sideways motions. Changes in altitude may also affect your cats.
35. If possible, travel with a passenger that can help you take care of the cats.
36. Make sure any travelers are fully aware of safety issues and know not to open any doors or windows unless all cats are properly secured.